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Public service broadcasting: as vital as ever – NUJ reaction

5 November 2019

The NUJ today welcomed the publication of a report from the Lords Communications and Digital Committee calling for urgent action to safeguard the future of public service broadcasting. 

The report – Public service broadcasting: as vital as ever – highlights the current threats and calls for urgent measures to safeguard the future of broadcasting as a vital part of UK society and democracy.

In line with the NUJ’s calls, the committee raises concerns about the integrity of the licence fee as the guarantor of the BBC’s financial independence, describing how it has been undermined by a succession of settlements which were carried out behind closed doors. It clearly condemns the decision to hand over responsibility to the BBC for free licences for the over-75s, saying: “The BBC should not have been offered, or accepted, responsibility for over-75s’ licences.” The committee calls for a new, independent and transparent process for setting the licence fee and recommends the establishment of a new body called the BBC Funding Commission to help set the licence fee.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, welcomed the report’s findings and said:

"This report raises clear alarm bells about the future of public service broadcasting in the UK and the perils it currently faces. Given the current parlous levels of public discourse, and political divisions that exist, quality well-resourced journalism is needed more than ever and public service broadcasting is vital. The NUJ agrees that urgent action is needed to address the challenges public service broadcasting faces and this should be prioritised by the incoming government after the general election."

Lord Gilbert, chair of the Lords Communications and Digital Committee, said:

"At a time of polarisation, public service broadcasters play a role in unifying the country through shared experiences. Our recommendations will ensure that public service broadcasters are able to continue to serve us and afford to make world-class programmes. If we fail to support our public service broadcasters, audiences would miss them when they're gone."

Tags: , licence fee, broadcasting, bbc, funding, public service broadcasting, lords communications committee, lords, parliament, parliament uk